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Germany to Benefit from Lower US Credit Rating

"Standard & Poor's warning the United States could lose its AAA rating may ultimately bring investment to Germany, reduce interest rates on its bonds and help the country lower its own debt," writes Deutsche Welle:

"Standard & Poor's reassessed US sovereign debt and decided to put it on negative watch for the first time, meaning there is one-in-three chance the ratings agency will downgrade the country's hitherto cast-iron AAA credit rating in the next two years. "Germany wins in this equation because it gets a dividend through stability," said Clemens Fuest, a member of the German finance ministry's technical advisory committee. "Interest rates will be pressed down as a result." Germany maintains a secure AAA rating, pays less for a 10-year bond than the United States, and has a constitutionally-mandated 'debt brake.' In Europe, German bonds, known as bunds, have long been the benchmark for investors. (...)

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Kinder Surprise Eggs Banned in the United States

Since it is Easter, CNN writes this:

Kinder Eggs, a popular European chocolate egg that contains a toy inside, is banned from importation into the United States because it contains a "non-nutritive object embedded in it."

With the Easter holiday around the corner, the agency issued the reminder this week, warning that the candy is considered unsafe for children under 3. Last year, Customs and Border Protection seized 25,000 of them in 1,700 incidents.

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Schwarzenegger as EU President

Newsweek:

Terry Tamminen, who headed California's Environmental Protection Agency before serving as Schwarzenegger's cabinet secretary, has told him that he should be president of a newly reconstituted European Union.

"In the next few years, the EU will be looking for a much more high-profile president-somebody who can unify Europe," Tamminen says. "The French won't want a German, and the Germans won't want an Italian. How about a European-born person who went off to America and ... could return to be the Washington or Jefferson of a new unified Europe?"

I am not sure, if Tamminen is joking or has no clue about European politics. IMHO it is more likely that Terminators from the future will travel back in time than Schwarzenegger becoming EU president.

I have a much more urgent and important job for Schwarzenegger. He has to get in shape and fight against Skynet. After all, as The Guardian points out, today, April 21, 2011, is the day when Skynet, the villainous super-computer from the Terminator films, is due to launch its assault on mankind. Terminator director James Cameron tweeted: "Instead of machines taking over, we have the very real threat of global warming."

NYT: Germany is not Predictable Anymore

Roger Cohen ends his latest NY Times column with a pretty drastic conclusions: "Predictability has been the great German virtue since 1945. It's gone."

I think that is a bit exaggerated, but in general I share his disappointment and criticism of Germany's current government, which "embarked on a stop-go crab walk suggestive of a nation uncomfortable with power and unsure of its purpose":

Germany (...) was, just a decade ago, the opposite of Angela Merkel's shifting, changeable nation with its finger to the electoral winds and its surprising talent for unpredictability. Solidity has given way to whim, direction to drift. (...) The loss of European idealism is the most shocking change I've seen in Germany this past decade. Merkel, who would still be stranded in East Germany if Kohl had wavered as she has, needs to lay out just how Germany, with its 3 percent growth and low unemployment, benefits from the E.U., the euro and a borderless market of almost half a billion people.

This was Roger Cohen's second op-ed on Germany in a row. Three days ago, he wrote France Flies, Germany Flops.

Yesterday, the NY Times published yet another op-ed on Germany. Fortunately this one by Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, the foreign editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, is a bit more balanced and explains the German position better:

On the one hand, Germany is bullish on the euro and a model in economic and technological terms. On the other, it is yielding to traditional German angst about nuclear energy and self-righteously refusing to join a military mission beyond Europe's shores. So you have both an old and a new Germany. Or so it seems.

Tempting as it is to do so, it is too early to say that Germany is venturing into a phase of isolationism. Such a conclusion may also be flat-out wrong. The vote in the U.N. Security Council, embarrassing as it was, may have had more to do with the miscalculations and predicament of a foreign minister whose party is in deep trouble, who is highly unpopular and whose political future is dangling by a string.

Guido Westerwelle is said to have ignored the advice of his top aides and to have received support from the chancellor only because she did not want to damage his reputation beyond the point of repair. Besides, the government has not wavered from its political and military commitment to Afghanistan, despite widespread public opposition.

A Casual-Friday Approach to German Diplomacy

Guest blog article from Marian Wirth:

About three decades ago, German diplomats were apparently capable of having clear goals and executing ambitious plans by choosing on-target measures, as this chipper "thank you"-note from Marilyn Monroe to then-Consulate General in Los Angeles, Volkmar von Zühlsdorff sufficiently illustrates. Even if the mission allegedly wasn't successful (and hasn't been within the realm of diplomatic duties anyway), the attempt at least left the target audience happy.

What a difference to the quagmire German diplomacy finds itself in nowadays! Especially the German antics with regard to Libya have lead to a lot of raised eyebrows, to say the least.

When I read the final paragraph of Charlemagne's blog post on the "Return of the Afrika (aid) Korps",

It would be a cruel irony if Germany, in its attempt to restore its battered credibility among its allies, were to expose its forces to greater danger on the ground in Misrata than if it had taken part in the air or maritime operations to begin with.

I couldn't help but think of one of the corner stones of German humor, which might serve as an outlook as to what German diplomacy under Guido Westerwelle is headed.

Europe's Indispensable Nation

Germany is Europe's "indispensable nation," in charge of "the unipolar moment within the eurozone," and it is to the EU what the United States is to NATO. That's how European and US think tankers compare Germany with the US:

David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy (via atlantic-community.org):

To the extent the EU, NATO, or the G20 have an effective future, Germany will be central to setting the parameters of the agenda. For some, the notion that so many issues important to the future of the world depends on the international engagement of a benevolent Germany will seem more than a little ironic. So too will the fact that Germany has become Europe's indispensible nation. But these are among the game-changing facts of the 21st century. Germany is not just the wallet of Europe, it also must necessarily be Europe's spine and its heart.

The European Council on Foreign Relations makes another comparison with the US. Financial Times:

"Rarely has Germany been as important in Europe - or as isolated - as it is today," say Ulrike Guérot and Mark Leonard in a new pamphlet for the European Council on Foreign Relations. "There has been a kind of 'unipolar moment' within the eurozone: no solution to the crisis was possible without Germany, or against Germany."

Constanze Stelzenmueller wrote in another Financial Times article about Germany: "In economic terms, it is to the European Union what America is to NATO: the superpower that gets to call the shots."

Germany should lead? No thanks. Most Germans rather want their country to be a bigger version of Switzerland. We prefer to just sell our cars, machines and tools around the world, play soccer, watch Tatort, and attend to our Gartenzwerge (lawn gnomes).

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Concerned about Twitter, not Foreign Policy

A Facebook friend posts that the German press is concerned about the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, but not the foreign ministry. Today, Guido Westerwelle announced that he will not seek re-election as party chief, but will remain foreign minister.

Chancellor Merkel's press secretary announced her US trip via Twitter. Several journalists, who don't use this tool, were upset and asked passive-aggressive questions for twenty minutes at the government press conference. Carta (in German) provides the video and transcript that documents "an apparently deeply scared profession."

Apparently nobody asked what the agenda for the trip in June is. Earlier it was only reported that Obama will award Merkel with the Medal of Freedom.

The main reason for our timid (or non-existing) foreign policy is IMHO the media's and the public's lack of serious interest in strategic international relations issues. The reason for this lack of interest is that most Germans don't see any serious risks to our security, (except nuclear power and climate change) and don't believe that we have the power to make a real difference anyway in Afghanistan, Libya etc.